CHATHAM, NJ - Except for a six-minute span in the second quarter, Chatham boys lacrosse coach Tony Calandra rated it as the most complete game the Cougars had played to date.
Observers of Chatham's 12-4 victory over Madison in the quarterfinals of the Morris County Tournament on Thursday would tend to agree.
A sharp, efficient offense, a relentless riding defense and stingy goaltending put Chatham (11-5) into the MCT semifinal round against Mountain Lakes (11-2) set for 4 p.m. Saturday at Jefferson High.
"Today, if you take the stick-penalty stretch out, I thought it was the best 42 minutes we played, collectively, as a group," Calandra said. "Now it's a matter of us putting a full 48 minutes together."
Chatham certainly can't let its guard down against a proud Mountain Lakes program, which made a return from a 5-1 deficit to win, 8-7, over the Cougars on April 25.
Against Madison (8-5), Mac Bredahl ended with four goals and an assist; Austin Pierce notched four goals and Matt Coleman netted three goals and dished three assists. Chris Francesco added one goal for Chatham. Just as impressive as the offense, was Chatham's ability to create transition goals from its defense.
"We've picked up our intensity in practice and tried to carry it over to the games," Calandra said. "We're working really hard. We're riding very well, and on attack. Everyone's got a goal in sight. This is the time of year that you want to be playing your best lacrosse."
Chatham scored two goals in a seven-second span to take a 6-2 lead into the halftime break. After Coleman made a run from behind to score unassisted with 45 seconds left in the second quarter, Will Hosbein won the ensuing faceoff, sprinted down field and passed to Coleman, who fed Bredahl for the goal with 38 seconds showing.
The Cougars tightened the vice on the Dodgers in the third quarter. Bredahl scored a brilliant goal when he came from behind and threaded a high shot through a crowd and into the far side of the goal. Bredahl followed with a pass to Coleman, who connected with an underhanded shot to make it 8-2.
The Cougars showed how in sync they were on the to its third goal of the quarter. Timmy Adams picked up a ground ball and sent a pass forward to defender Chris Conlin, who sent the ball to long stick Pat Cosgrove. Cosgrove charged the net and hit Pierce, who finished with a blast that made it 9-2 with 1:16 left in the third.
Pierce, Coleman and Bredahl scored in succession in the fourth quarter make it a 12-2 bulge for Chatham.
"We've definitely got to clean stuff up since the last time we played (Mountain Lakes)," Nestler said. "Should be a good game. I think we're playing real well right now. We're picking up our level of play. The offense definitely jelled well together. The defense has been playing well together. Not much to complain about."
All that's left is to close the gap on those six minutes.
Matt Coleman scores off a pass from Ryan Decker to give Chatham an 11-2 advantage
Mac Bredahl scores the first of his four goals on a pass from Matt Coleman